482 Cablegram to Canberra

New York, l3 July 1976


East Timor and the United Nations

If we are to send a letter to the Secretary-General it will have to be done at the latest on 14 July since the Indonesian deadline expires 17 July.

  1. One concern I have about the letter you propose I send to Waldheim is the danger that it might continue rather than cure the misunderstanding with Indonesia and possibly involve us in lengthy disputation with third countries about the true situation on the ground in East Timor. You will now have Horta's letter to the Secretary-General (O.UN59881). FRETILIN is clearly not going to nominate specific places. They hope to get Winspeare on the spot in Dili and then themselves take him to areas they claim to be FRETILIN controlled. I have no doubt that Waldheim and Winspeare will consider this arrangement dangerous and quite unsatisfactory. But our offer to lend whatever assistance we reasonably can to a return visit by Winspeare, without more specific qualification, could be interpreted by some as an offer by us of land transport in East Timor. We can argue that this interpretation is unreasonable but such a request may still be made to us. It may thus lead to lengthy and fruitless disputation on the role we ought to play in getting Winspeare back.
  2. I also had some reservations about writing to the Secretary-General at this stage urging a return visit by Winspeare so soon after Horta had addressee} a communication to the Secretary-General. A letter by us at this time might be interpreted as lending weight to the FRETILIN argument that FRETILIN controls the bulk of the territory of East Timor. Already we have had to discount suggestions by some delegations that we have 'special knowledge' that corroborates the FRETILIN claims.
  3. I would not ask to have my letter circulated as a document of the Security Council but you will know that letters to the Secretary-General on matters with which the Security Council is seized are as a matter of course distributed informally to all members of the Security Council.
  4. However, my principal concern was to avoid any misunderstanding on the part of Indonesia. I spoke therefore to Joko Yoewono (Charged'Affaires, Indonesian Mission) this afternoon, 13 July. I told him of your proposal that I write to the Secretary-General and I showed him text of the proposed letter. He commented that 'there was no conflict' between our proposed letter and his letter of 4 July to the Secretary-General,2 although he noted that the Provisional Government had expressed a 'preference' for a visit by 17 July, 1976. He asked, however, for time to refer the question to Jakarta, commenting that during his visit here on 4 July, Foreign Minister Malik had told him that he was puzzled that Australia had offered transport to Winspeare to reach alleged FRETILIN-held areas, when on the other hand we had declined to participate in 31 May and 24 June visits to East Timor. (Joko Yoewono revealed this in confidence and I undertook to protect his confidence.) Joko also commented that while the Indonesian Mission to the UN had attempted to put a case for proper UN involvement in East Timor, this had not always been understood or accepted by 'Jakarta'. He is therefore urgently referring the question to Jakarta for comment. I have told him that I will send the proposed letter to Waldheim tomorrow 14 July New York time, unless he gets back to me with comment by 0930 hours the same day.3


[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, xxiv]